Kimball Chen — Small Steps

As I mentioned in previous entries, I’ve been trying to clear my house of clutter. The other day I picked up an old New Yorker, and it had an article about my friend Philip’s book about Lincoln’s Legacy. Couldn’t throw that away.

Then I come to a 2003 edition of the Groton School Quarterly, the school I got kicked out of three weeks before graduation back in 1970. Surely I can throw that out.

Whoops. No, I can’t. It has a chapel talk by Kimball Chen. I remember him well. In a school with 200 students, everyone knew everyone well. He was a year ahead of me, so he was a sixth former when I was a fith former

The sixth formers had a lot of authority over everyone else, and for some reason I recall that Kimball handled this authority with grace and good humor — much more so than most of his classmates.

His chapel talk is about small steps forward, and it’s a very inspiring piece. I’d like to post the entire text somewhere. He talks about a provincial governor in Brazil who formed close bonds with the people through small steps to make their life better, and about two clever clergymen who conspired to make the world better.

Kimball’s Turkish goddaughter was to be married to a German Lutheran, and her imam met with the groom’s uncle, a Lutheran minister, to design a service that would bestow the blessings of both religions on their marriage without alienating the quests of either party

“I asked the minister if he had been worried about dissonance between Islam and Christianity during the marriage rituals,” Kimball writes. “He answered me, more or less, in the following words:

“‘Both the imam and I wanted to ask God to bless the couple. We also wanted to assure them of our confidence that they, of two faiths, could sustain a good marriage. Therefore the imam and I spoke before the ceremony about how to set an example of mutual respect.

“‘We decided that each could do justice to his religion while saying only those things that the other would feel comfortable saying.’

“These were two men with one goal:” Kimball continues, “to serve the happiness and future of a young couple. These were two men who took action, a small action that served a large purpose. These were two men who increased the world’s spiritual bank account by a contribution of tolerance and understanding.

“I’ve have learned to take satisfaction in positive actions, no matter how small,” he concludes. “I am not willing to sit motionless, thinking and wishing, but not acting.”

“A good thought is a thing started, but a good deed, no matter how small, is a thing completed. Good thoughts can stir minds and souls, but good deeds remake the world. In your lives, I urge you not only to think the good thought, but also to do the good deed.”

See why I can’t ever get rid of anything around here?